South Dakota student can’t wear traditional Lakota clothing at graduation

Oelrichs, South Dakota April 2010

An American Indian high school student graduating in the southwest South Dakota town of Oelrichs wants to wear traditional Lakota dress to the commencement ceremony.

The School Board insists that 19-year-old Aloysius Dreaming Bear wear a cap and gown, which is required of all graduates.

Dreaming Bear says he wants to honor his culture and his people. The senior class president says he doesn’t understand why he isn’t being allowed to do that.

School Superintendent Lawrence Jaske says the district honors its Indian students with a feather ceremony before graduation in which female tribal students receive an eagle plume and male students receive an eagle feather. He says many of the students wear them in their hair as they cross the stage.

Jaske also says the cap-and-gown requirement is in a handbook that Dreaming Bear signed off on last August.